Bill Paxton has probably been in at least one of your favorite movies. We first noticed him in as the “Punk Leader” in the group from who Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded clothing. He also had a bit role in another Arnold movie, “Commando” with a similar body count.

Paxton had the rare privilege to have been killed on screen by a Terminator, a Predator, and an Alien (the one Ripley finally dispatched in “Aliens 2.”) Three roles stand out in Paxton’s illustrative career.

Paxton played Fred Haise, the lunar module pilot who did not get to land on the moon in the Ron Howard classic “Apollo 13” along with Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell.

He played a “right stuff” type of astronaut in one of the worse scenarios anyone could face, being in imminent threat of death in a crippled Apollo space capsule. Men under pressure in a confined space does not even begin to describe what the characters went through.

Paxton also played the treasure hunter in “Titanic,” a role that could have been a heavy in the great Hollywood tradition of depicting people who are motivated by money as bad. But Paxton was able to impart that sense of awe about the story, as told by one of the last survivors of the sinking of the luxury liner.

“Titanic” was filled with grandeur and tragedy and Paxton’s character was sucked into it, even as he was looking for his main score.

The most memorable role Paxton played was a rare comedic turn, in “True Lies,” in which he played Simon, the smarmy used car salesman who pretended to be a spy to pick up women. Simon made the grave mistake of picking up the wife of a real spy, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A braver man that Simon would have crumbled at being confronted by a pissed off Arnold, Simon was not a brave man but, as we saw later in the movie, libido provided some temporary courage.

Paxton did some television to help pay the bills. We saw him in “Big Love,” “Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.” and the new TV version of “Training Day.”

Paxton’s obituary states that he died of complications of surgery. At age 61 he ceased to strut the stage far too soon.

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